Mancho, Digital Arts Research Center
Contributed by Darrell McKelvie Ruppel
“Let me tell you about Mancho. He’s a male mule deer, probably around 400 lbs. His antlers spread well over 17 inches and he has one of the darkest marks running as a v on his forehead. He’s a beast but he’s one of the gentlest beasts I’ve ever seen. He has a family that lives under this oak tree.”
In Conversation With Darrell McKelvie Ruppel
The deer are very present on this campus, and they have worked their way into my artwork and even my home life.
When I decided to start feeding the deer, my brother was in the ICU in San Diego. Two active military members had attacked him. He was near death, but my mom encouraged me to stay here and keep going to school. I was studying the deer at the time, and spending 3 or 4 hours a day with them. It was driving me crazy that I wasn’t with my brother in the hospital, but then the tension between the deer, their eating habits, and the people in their environment began to resonate with me. I have always wanted to interact with the deer, but obviously they have other ideas and are uncomfortable with people. I really think, though, we have a lot we can learn from deer. Violence between deer, when they are attacking each other, it is not out of hate or stupidity, it’s out of necessity. They need the resources and food from an area, so they are like this is my territory and I need to eat. What happened to my brother was not this; it was malicious. I imagine the deer watching us and judging us, changing their actions based on our stupidity. I wish we would do the same.
So, I wanted to find ways to interact with the deer and was particularly interested in one deer. Let me tell you about Mancho. He’s a male mule deer, probably around 400 lbs. His antlers spread well over 17 inches and he has one of the darkest marks running as a v on his forehead. He’s a beast but he’s one of the gentlest beasts I’ve ever seen. He has a family that lives under this oak tree. They are mostly there in the early morning and dusk. That’s when deer eat, dawn and dusk. And, these deer like this tree because it drops lots of gorgeous acorns. This year has been a record low acorn harvest and a record high rutting season for the deer, so in the next year or two we might start seeing deer carcasses on campus. Out of fear of that, I decided to start feeding the deer on campus.
I did this through an art project. I went out under this oak tree and my classmates had covered me with different fruits and vegetables– apples, carrots, things like that. I waited for the deer and Mancho and his family came. When I was covered in food, I lay under the tree for around four hours. Mostly it was the females that were interested, in fact, one of the females came and laid down about six feet away from me. The other deer looked at her like she was nuts. She got up really quickly and they all just stood around watching me for the next hour just shivering with cold, offering them food. Eventually, they scattered because people kept coming by, and I left. When I came back a little while later, all the food was gone.